Sunday, June 13, 2010

When dreams nearly die

I have been fighting the worst funk of my life the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure what has been going on with me, but I can honestly say I have been on the verge of some sort of clinical depression.

I had lost the will to write, whether it was fiction or this blog. It just didn't seem important to me. I just wanted to wallow in self pity and failure.

It sucked.

I'm convinced that part of it was physical. I apparently had some kind of virus or bug or something that left me feeling exhausted and damn near catatonic. The glands under my neck were swollen and I had a headache all of the time.


I had written the opening scene of my new WIP and then struggled mightily to move it forward. Everything I wrote was garbage. Seriously. None of it is usable.

Concerned, I stopped writing for a few days. I figured I just needed some time away from fiction writing for the first time in three years. A week went by and ... nothing. I still felt crappy and completely uninterested in writing.

I even talked to my wife about seeing a counselor. Or a shrink. I needed something.

I still might.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that I had given up. That I had fallen victim to my own lack of confidence. I had become convinced that my first book sucks, that it will never be published. Consequently, I felt no need to continue writing. I was a failure.

Why go through all of that work again, just to fail again?

As some of you know, I am a vice president/communications director for RS Operations, a global marine salvage corporation (Google us and invest!). Things have been looking up there, so I figured maybe I don't need to chase my dreams. I can help someone else chase theirs!

Some back story: Several months ago, I started following the blog of 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland. She was attempting to become the youngest person to sail nonstop around the world. In a boat. Alone. I grew to admire her courage and how she was determined to make her dream come true, no matter what anyone said.

I could relate, you know?

So imagine my horror when, during the absolute depths of my depression or whatever it was, I signed on the Internet to read this: Teen sailor feared missing at sea.

Like most people who follow blogs regularly, I really felt like I had come to know this girl. I had commented on her blog and she had commented back. We were blog buddies!

And now she was missing somewhere in the Indian Ocean and feared dead. I was heartbroken.

I followed her saga closely and, unfortunately, became convinced the child had perished at sea. I was angry. At her for going. At her parents for allowing it. At the sea for taking her. I was pissed. And sad.

I also had this sinking thought: That's what happens when you chase your dreams.

I signed on the Internet late Friday before hitting the sack and did a Google search on Abby to see if there was any new information (once a news junkie, always a news junkie). I happened to see a breaking news item that said an Australian Airbus was due over her position within ten minutes. If she was alive, they might be able to either spot her or make radio contact.

I stayed with the Google stream as it was updated in real time. Ten minutes passed. People were praying for this girl online, mainly on Twitter. Most didn't seem to expect a positive outcome. I didn't either, to be honest with you.

Twenty minutes passed and no news from the Australians. I felt really bad and was thinking about going to bed.

And then this moved on the Google Stream -- Breaking News: Teen sailor found alive and well.

OK. I'll admit that I raised my fists in the air, let out a whoop and then sat there and cried tears of joy. I have kids her age. I could only imagine the joy her parents felt at that moment.

And at that moment, my depression broke. It dissolved. Gone.

This girl had risked her life for a dream and nearly lost both. But she intends to try again, despite almost dying.

And I intend to keep on trying, too.

Dreams are too precious to give up on.

I learned that from a 16-year-old girl.

Go Abby.


  1. Go YOU! The depression, the funk, the blues, the virus, is an indomitable thing we all call life. Sometimes it grabs us by the hand and leads us along lightly, sometimes it grabs us by the throat and puts us up against the wall.

    I'm glad you broke through it.

  2. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective. Sometimes you need to vent. Sometimes you find out you're anemic and have to start taking B vitamins because it's not "normal" anemia... oh wait, that one's just me ;-)

    Don't beat yourself up, Terry. You put a lot of time and effort and blood and tears and LIFE into TDYK. Now that it's over and done, you're bound to be wiped. It's normal to crash (even hard) after something that's consumed your life for so long. You killed the whale, Ahab, now you have to find another quest. ;-P

    (And, yes, thank God that Abby was found alive and well. Considering where she went adrift there was a real chance that neither of those would have been the case.)

  3. Just fyi, I thought my husband had clinical depression a few years ago and he agreed to go to the doctor for testing. Turns out he had serious sleep apnea. He was sleep deprived which can mimic depression. Just a thought of something to check if the feelings return. Have a sleep test.

    Best to you!

  4. I keep wanting to be depressed over the idea that my first book might never be published. I know we all read about how most authors seem to need to write several books before one gets published, but I will never love another book as much as the first one I wrote. I guess we just need to figure out how to force ourselves to get that next book written, no matter how we truly feel about it.

  5. Yeah, I'm right there with ya. What gets me is that whenever I try to think of something else to do, I can think of nothing that I'd want to do everyday all day long. Everything else kind of makes my stomach turn a little.

    Even other things I'm passionate about don't ever sound like a good career choice. I would get bored with it too quickly. That's how it's been my entire life. I've finally found something that even when I want to quit, I really don't want to quit.

    This is also the first time in my life that my mind goes blank though. I swear it seems like it's taken a really long vacation and left me behind. It makes occasional appearances to throw me a bone every now and again so I don't give up and then it's off again. It's insane.

    I'm going to try and trick my mind when I go on this adventure. I'm not bringing a laptop or a recorder. That's when I seem to get the best ideas, when I am completely unprepared and unable to put them down somewhere. I'll sneak in a pad of paper just in case but that's it.

    Anyway, I don't know the solution, but if you figure it out before me, clue me in okay? Otherwise, I hope knowing that you're not alone in this makes it just a little bit better.

  6. You followed her story for a reason. The Universe was speaking to you through Abby's situation. Did you hear it?


  7. I was so relived when they found her too. Im even MORE happy that your depression has lifted.

    "I apparently had some kind of virus or bug or something that left me feeling exhausted and damn near catatonic."

    yes, actually THAT is going around. A few people I know had it and it lasted for over 15 days!

  8. You are not alone with the depression. It is really hard to be creative when you have nothing to show for all the work you do except a manuscript that gets rejected.

    Sometimes all it takes is a peek at something life or death to put our own woes into a little bit of perspective. Not to diminish your funk, or your feelings in any way - when you're down in the dumps it feels like a house just landed on your chest and you can't get out, and that is real.

    I am glad that you have fought through it, and I am doubly relieved they found young Abby safe and sound. I think it is amazing that she could take this trip at all, and I hope she gives it another try. Risky, yes. But you have to follow your dreams.

    Chin up blog friend.

  9. God never puts a dream in our heart without giving us the means to fulfill it Terry. Please don't ever forget that. Never ever give up, because a dream given up on will eat at you like a cancer, destroying your very soul.
    Stay firm, stay focused and if all else fails - stay in touch!
    With a smile